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October 12, 2009

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 486, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). The new law – suggested by a constituent in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest – will help an estimated one million Californians safely dispose of their “sharps” (a type of medical waste that includes syringes and needles).

“For anyone with a family member who takes insulin or other medical injections, this law will seem long overdue,” Simitian said. “We tell patients they can’t throw sharps away, but haven’t provided an easy, safe solution. The net effect is that roughly one million Californians are ‘lawbreakers’ with no practical alternative,” said Simitian.  “This new law is a step toward a real solution. It makes it easier to do the right thing, and we should all be safer as a result.”

Senate Bill 486 requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide information on their websites about the safe needle collection and disposal programs they offer, if any. In addition, they must also submit those plans to the State for display on a State website.

“Consumers want the answer to a simple question: what am I supposed to do with these things once I’ve used them?” said Simitian. “This law will provide consumers using ‘sharps’ the opportunity to do some comparison shopping. It will also highlight manufacturers who are marketing consumer-friendly products, as well as those who are clearly part of the problem.”

Senate Bill 486 was one of last year’s winning entries in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest. Betty Lipkin, a San Carlos resident living with multiple sclerosis, has several containers of ‘sharps’ in her home. She proposed the law to help individuals like herself manage their sharps conveniently and safely.

“The signing of SB 486 gives me hope for finally being able to properly dispose of the ‘sharps’ containers I’ve been collecting in my home for a few years,” said Lipkin.  “My concerns for the environment and for the welfare of those individuals who handle these items have been top of mind for some time. I’m glad something is now being done about it.”

It is estimated that over one million people in California use syringes and other sharps for home health care. Approximately one in twelve households in California have an individual who must self-administer an injection to treat a number of illnesses including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, anemia, and migraines. This generates approximately 386 million sharps each year in the state of California that require disposal.

“This bill solves a very real problem,” said Lara Sim, Chair of the California Sharps Coalition. “California has the nation’s most comprehensive hazardous and medical waste laws, which apply to large commercial activities. However, we lack proper guidelines for individual households. By signing Senator Simitian’s bill, the Governor lets us work with the pharmaceutical companies to help consumers understand how to safely manage their injectable products after using them.”

To learn more about SB 486 or Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest, visit